Jeffrey Champlin received his BA from Middlebury College and Ph. D. from New York University in 2011. His teaching and research focuses on connections between literature, philosophy, and political theory. Recent publications examine questions of power and aesthetics in Kleist, Goethe, Hegel, Rilke, and Arendt. After a year as a postdoctoral fellow at Bard’s Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities, he is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Literature at Bard’s Honors College at Al-Quds University and Associate Fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center.

Seminar: “Placing Antigone”
Saturday December 1, 2012 at 10:00 to 16:00 – Campus in Camps Al Feneiq Center, Deheishe Refugee Camp by Jeffrey Champlin

“Look at me, Citizens of my native land!” (Antigone)

The Greek tragedy Antigone voices an appeal for justice beyond the law of the state. Antigone, orphaned daughter of Oedipus, resolves to bury her rebel brother Polyneices despite the explicit prohibition of the Creon (king of Thebes), who insists that the corpse be left to rot as a warning against future treason. As the drama begins, Antigone stands outside the city walls, alone and appealing in vain for help.

In the 19th century the drama was often described as a collision between the law of the gods, as represented by its title character, and the law of the state represented by the Creon. To this extent it probes the compatibility of two systems of order and asks how to resolve clashes when they no longer align. In the 20th century, however, critics suggested that near the end of the drama Antigone fights not for the gods but against her own unique sense of injustice. Indeed, the drama asks hard questions about whose side the gods are really on, and Antigone persists in defending her act beyond the strict demands of tradition. In the last half of the drama, Antigone’s rhetoric splits into a heroic acceptance of death and a continued attempt to persuade the chorus that Creon is wrong. Against the injunctions and directorial instructions of the king, she herself takes center stage and demands to speak to the people.

The seminar will undertake a reading of Antigone that asks after her place. Who’s side is she on – if she has a side? What kind of demand or cry for justice can come from one without a home base? How does the drama situate her? How does she define herself and her position? These questions will lead us to investigate how reading Antigone in Palestine in the 21st century changes the points of view offered by German, French, and American interpretations.

Some broader issues that we will discuss through this drama: scenes of staging, or attempting to stage, power (how control arises from commanding the gaze of others); how a claim or cry can echo or broadcast from a space of confinement (Antigone’s lament to her tomb); politics and the body; emergence and resonance of a voice of one who does not belong but insists on belonging.

The seminar will involve an introductory lecture, group stagings of key sections of the drama, written work on close readings, and discussion of their literary, rhetorical, and political implications.

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Seminar: Placing Antigone – by Jeffrey Champlin


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